The Wand of Narcissus and Choreographed Identities
The Selfie Stick—it’s the icon of our age. It was listed in Time magazine’s 25 best inventions of 2014. Nothing better captures the spirit of our era than this extendable metal stick that enables people to position a camera for the taking of endless self-portraits. Some have dubbed it the “Wand of Narcissus.” And for good reason.
Of course, if you’re on vacation with your family or at a class reunion, there’s nothing narcissistic about whipping out the Selfie Stick to capture the togetherness. Before the age of the selfie, a group photo necessarily excluded the picture taker. Alternatively, it meant corralling a safe-looking stranger to snap the shot while entrusting your camera into his hands. So the Selfie Stick has most definitely enhanced the ability to capture important memories.
But for what purpose? Photo albums are so last generation. Today it’s all about social media. For the over-forty set, it’s Facebook. (The younger generation fled that venue when we infiltrated their domain.) A majority of adults who go online have Facebook profiles.
Some users change their profile picture weekly or even daily. We see candid, in-the-moment fun shots, but many more are carefully choreographed to set the subject off to best advantage. What’s the appeal? It’s deeper than narcissism. Social media gives us a way to hide our flaws, disappointments, failures—and loneliness. Even—maybe especially—on Valentine’s Day.
Looking Happy Isn’t the Same as Being Happy
Have you scanned your Facebook newsfeed today? The “public” aspect of PDAs has no limit there, and absent are polite filters of privacy for declarations of romantic love. All those heart emojis and sappy sentiments can leave us unsettled and a bit discontented—or feeling like we’ve been punched in the gut. Either way, we close our browser, feeling shut out from the good life.
But the truth is, nobody is their Facebook page. From posts to pictures, so much of it is just a carefully choreographed identity, a projection of how people wish to be perceived rather than who they really are. Behind the exclamation points and cupids lie all the normal stuff of everyone’s life: sickness, heartbreak, rejection—and loneliness. And let’s remember that some of those posts are obligatory. Others mask relational desperation.
Yet even if the majority are genuine expressions of happiness, we aren’t shut out from what they represent. We may have no romance to celebrate, but in Christ, we are loved. And his love for us goes way deeper than any Hallmark sentiment. We may be lonely, but God doesn’t leave us empty. In Christ we are offered the most fulfilling companionship we can ever know. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
And in him we belong. We have a family, the church—individuals knit together by the Holy Spirit so that each one is built up and strengthened and loved. The church is God’s gift to the lonely. So if you’re alone today—and lonely—forget the Valentine hype on social media and ponder this instead: “God settles the solitary in a home” (Ps. 68:6).
Loneliness is a big issue for married women, whether their marriage is good or not.
We were originally created by God, alone. The reason God created in this way is so that we will find our all in him.
In this video, Justin Taylor sits down with Lydia Brownback to discuss her new book, Finding God in My Loneliness.